Taylor McNallie was 11-years-old the first time she was called the N-word. The scene took place at a bush party, in the middle of nowhere, with a bunch of kids from Cremona, Alta., having bonfires and drinking alcohol.
Years have blurred the memory, but McNallie remembers the boy who said it. He was a few years older than her, and he was very well known and popular. McNallie can’t remember the exact reason why the young man directed the slur at her in that moment, but she says the slur was commonly thrown around by kids in an attempt to look cool.
This moment stands out as McNallie’s earliest memory of racism.
Years prior, when McNallie and her young, white single mother arrived in Cremona, they immediately felt the unwelcoming embrace of some of the locals.
McNallie’s mom had grown up in Southern Alberta and it was a friend that drew them to the small village, about 80 kilometres northwest of Calgary.
It was hard for McNallie’s mom to relate to the long-standing members of the community. And, according to McNallie, the fact she was Black didn’t help.
There were few if any people of colour in town, other than her.
“It was a shit show,” McNallie remembers. “It was not fun, I definitely learned a lot and I grew up really quickly in that town.”
After Cremona, McNallie and her mom eventually moved to Didsbury. When McNallie was 16 she moved away and relocated to Calgary, near the Southland LRT station, where she lived with five friends in a bungalow.
McNallie still lives in Calgary with her 10-year-old daughter and boyfriend.
Nevertheless, the experiences of racism in small-town Alberta have stuck with her — leading her to co-found the anti-racist group Inclusive Canada. But her work as an activist has led to an increase in racists targeting her and her family.
McNallie’s activism started following the death of George Floyd on May 25 in Minneapolis and the unrest that followed.
That unrest had thousands of Calgarians in the streets protesting “because people give a shit and they want to do something or people just want to be a part of something,” McNallie says.
But soon after a protest at Olympic Plaza, which had roughly 4,000 people, that vigour for systemic change seemed to fade.
“That time had become the biggest civil rights movement in history worldwide,” McNallie says.
“Why are we letting this die? This is our time, this is our moment. We want to see these changes happen and this is the time to do it.”
That’s one reason why McNallie created Inclusive Canada with a friend from Cremona who originally named the organization Rural Alberta Against Racism. McNallie now runs the organization with her partner who goes by the name Miss K, and together they changed the name to more accurately represent the aim of their work to include a broader range of people geographically.
As part of that effort, the group works closely with other similar organizations such as Red Deer Against Racism, Black and Indigenous Alliance Alberta, and Fight for Equity out of Edmonton.
Inclusive Canada tries to start educational conversations about racial matters in an effort to create change, as an alternative to holding rallies or marches. In doing so, McNallie and Miss K’s objective is to inform communities about the struggles of people of colour — whether current or throughout Canada’s history.
With community conversations, Inclusive Canada seeks to hold space for people in a non-judgemental way and combat the damaging effects of keyboard warriors.
“I think that’s huge when people can listen and talk and have dialogue between both sides or any sides,” says McNallie.
But talking about racism is not an easy task, especially when the idea of having a community conversation is met with threats.
“I’ve been told I’m going to be found hanging from a tree if I keep talking and keep doing this work,” McNallie says.
Indeed, threats and intimidation have been a part of McNallie’s daily life since she became an activist.
It’s why McNallie has put up cameras in her home and refrains from standing on her front lawn out of fear of being recognized.
While McNallie has seen some success in dismantling the racial intolerance in small-town Alberta, not everyone is on board with the actions of Inclusive Canada, McNallie or BLM activists.
During an anti-racism rally that took place at Rotary Recreation Park in Red Deer on Sept. 20, an opposing group showed up to counter protest. The events of that day have led to multiple assault charges, including one against McNallie.
McNallie says she found out about the charge through social media. A few counter-protestors who had shown up to the rally posted online about how she was being charged with assault, claiming the information came from the RCMP. McNallie immediately phoned the RCMP and they confirmed.
When contacted about McNallie’s account, a spokesperson for the RCMP’s Central Alberta District said the force “won’t respond” to inquiries about the issue and that the RCMP “would have followed a process.” The spokesperson also said, “I don’t want to argue her allegations.”
Despite violent attacks, intimidating threats, and charges of assault on all sides, McNallie continues her work with Inclusive Canada to provide more opportunities for dialogue about racism.
“It brings hope to people, for sure people of colour, that they’re not being forgotten.”